- "To give oneself to Chaos, body and soul -- is there any more complete an act of devotion?"
- — Anonymous Possessed
The Possessed, also known as Possessed Chaos Space Marines and "The Secondborn", are those Chaos Space Marines who have forsaken their humanity and given up their souls and bodies to the Chaos Gods. Their body has been possessed by a Chaos daemon, who keeps its human shell alive using the energy of the Warp. The Possessed feel no pain and their bodies can be warped and mutated to suit the purpose or whim of the daemon that inhabits them.
For some of the more extreme devotees of the Ruinous Powers, simply offering their souls up to the service of the Chaos Gods is not enough. Those who thirst for power at any cost will offer themselves wholly to Chaos, becoming willing hosts for the immaterial entities of the Warp. Such a possession is a lengthy and agonising experience, as the daemons within them infest their physical forms and reshape them to better suit their particular needs. Those who offer themselves up for possession usually spend solar months in rituals of debasement and scarification, offering up blood sacrifices and preparing their bodies to harbour a daemonic entity. Though the personalities of these half-mad supplicants are subsumed forever within the power of the possessing daemon, mass possessions are nonetheless great celebrations for the devotees of Chaos of the spiritual union between mortal and daemon, material and Empyrean. They are marked by the more lustful amongst the devotees of Chaos with orgies of feasting and other depravity, and by the more devout with solemn hymnals of impurity.
The Possessed are easily identified by their grotesquely mutated bodies; they may possess vicious claws, warped limbs, tentacles, wings, extra mouths and eyes or razored talons that can gouge through ceramite and steel alike. In battle they sometimes appear to flicker in and out of reality or even take different forms from one moment to the next, bounding along in the manner of predatory beasts only to erupt into howling tornadoes of teeth and claws that seem more ethereal storm than mortal man. They make superb trackers, for they are able to perceive the material realm and the Empyrean at the same time -- they can see fear, taste doubt and feel the greasy psychic stain of despair. Using these uncanny senses the Possessed can even guide the warfleets of the Chaos Space Marines through the shifting tides of the Warp better than any Imperial Navigator should they deign to help their mortal allies. However, their primary role -- and the activity which they most relish -- is to tear those who stand against the will of the Chaos Gods limb from limb.
In many Heretic Astartes hosts, such as the Fire Reavers, Crimson Slaughter and Invocators, those who are successfully taken over by a daemon are considered the most blessed of all warriors. The ferocious Gal Vorbak of the Word Bearers are exemplars of this high esteem, held up as blasphemous saints by the Dark Apostles that speak of them. If the tales are true, they were the first Space Marines to become Possessed during the Horus Heresy, breaking the laws of reality in order to better serve the Ruinous Powers worshipped by their Primarch Lorgar and his advisors. Though they have long faded into legend, the ranks of the Word Bearers have numbered a great many Possessed ever since, forming powerful links to their daemon allies in the process.
The origins of the Possessed can be traced back to the middle years of the Great Crusade during the late 30th Millennium. The entirety of the Word Bearers Legion and their Primarch Lorgar were formally rebuked by the Emperor of Mankind on the world of Khur for their desire to worship him as a deity contrary to the prescribed tenets of the Imperial Truth, the secular, rationalist culture promulgated by the Emperor during the Great Crusade to reunite all the worlds of Mankind beneath the umbrella of the newborn Imperium of Man. This collection of beliefs upheld the core values of reason, science and secular progress over older traditions of religion, superstition and faith that had long defined many of the human worlds that had fallen into darkness during the Age of Strife after the fall of humanity's first interstellar civilisation. The Emperor himself declared that Mankind would never be free to progress and advance to its destined position as the pre-eminent intelligent species in the Milky Way Galaxy until churches, idol worship and superstition were swept aside.
After being formally chastised and humiliated at Khur, Lorgar, on the advice of his First Captain Kor Phaeron and the Word Bearers' First Chaplain Erebus, both secret devotees of the Chaos Gods, decided to undertake a Pilgrimage to discover if the gods worshipped by the adherents of the ancient Old Faith of the Word Bearers' homeworld of Colchis were real and worthy of the Word Bearers' faith and allegiance. Lorgar believed that the Emperor was wrong to condemn Mankind's natural instinct to seek out the divine as an unworthy superstition and he intended to discover if there were truly deities worthy of humanity's respect. To this end, though Lorgar no longer had any love or loyalty for the Emperor, he and his XVIIth Legion rejoined the Great Crusade after Khur, but did so only so their efforts could serve as a front for their pursuit of what came to be known as the Pilgrimage of Lorgar. The Primarch journeyed with his Word Bearers Legion's Chapter of the Serrated Sun to what was then the fringes of known Imperial space.
It would be in the Cadia System that Lorgar would learn that his suspicions had been correct and that the shape of all of the religions across the galaxy that possessed so many similarities to the Colchisian Old Faith were not artefacts of Mankind's collective unconsciousness, but expressions of worship in the universal truth that was Chaos. Discovering the world of Cadia, a Word Bearers landing party, led by Lorgar, was greeted by a large number of barbaric human tribes that showed little fear. The Word Bearers eagerly approached the natives. A strange woman emerged from the crowd and addressed the Primarch directly, calling him Lorgar Aurelian and welcoming him to Cadia. This woman, the Chaos priestess Ingethel, would ultimately lead the Primarch down a path of spiritual enlightenment that actually marked the beginning of Lorgar's fall to heresy and Chaos. Later, the Priestess Ingethel of Cadia would initiate a ritual that saw her transformed into the Daemon Prince known as Ingethel the Ascended, and then led the 1,301st Expeditionary Fleet's scout vessel Orfeo's Lament into the Eye of Terror.
The Word Bearers' Serrated Suns Chapter dutifully carried out the final stage of Lorgar's pilgrimage. Entering the Immaterium that made up the hellish realms of the Eye of Terror, the Word Bearers were possessed without their knowledge by daemons. Unlike the later possession of Daemonhosts by the malevolent entities of the Empyrean, these initial possessions were less a brutal subjugation of the host's physical body than a symbiotic fusion of both beings on a spiritual level. Indeed, Lorgar would later point to the survivors of the journey into the Eye of Terror as examples of what Mankind could become if Horus succeeded in overthrowing the rule of the Emperor of Mankind and delivering the galaxy into the service of the Chaos Gods. The remnants of the Serrated Sun Chapter eventually returned to their Legion after a 7 month-long subjective ordeal in the Eye of Terror that lasted only mere moments for those of the XVIIth Legion waiting in realspace for the Serrated Suns' return. During questioning by Lorgar about what had happened within the Eye, a Word Bearer by the name of Argel Tal detailed what he had experienced in the Warp, providing useful insight later used as the foundation for the heretical Book of Lorgar. Lorgar also noted that Argel Tal now appeared to possess "two souls" -- Argel Tal's own and, unknowingly, the soul of the Daemon known as Raum. In honour of his achievements, Lorgar made Argel Tal the Captain of his Gal Vorbak (the "Blessed Sons" in Colchisian), an elite cadre of Astartes made up of the surviving members of the Serrated Sun Chapter.
Many years later, the Warmaster Horus declared his allegiance to Chaos and revealed his treachery at Istvaan III, thus beginning the galaxy-spanning conflict known as the Horus Heresy. During the Drop Site Massacre on Istvaan V when the Traitor Legions showed their true colours and betrayed their Loyalist brethren, the Gal Vorbak underwent a final metamorphosis. When Lorgar attacked Corax, the Primarch of the Raven Guard Legion, all of the members of the Gal Vorbak became true daemons. Their flesh and ceramite fused and warped into new, bestial forms, marking them out as the first of the Possessed. After the battle, the Gal Vorbak resumed the form of normal Astartes again, though the battle had proven costly. Only five of their number had survived taking on a Primarch in battle to continue to fight in the service of Chaos throughout the rest of the Horus Heresy. In the millennia to come, they would be joined by many more of their fearful kind.
The Daemon WithoutEdit
The origin of Possessed Chaos Space Marines within the history of the Imperium remains murky at best, and information remains scarce. On a single piece of parchment crafted from human skin, which can be found only in a forgotten library within the Eye of Terror, the foul, heretical words are written in blood. This same parchment explains how daemon forms materialised within the bodies of a band of Word Bearers -- the so-called Gal Vorbak -- yet their acts and deeds are lost amidst ten thousand years of bloody warfare. Likewise, a single venerated bronze plaque deep within the sacred halls of the Adeptus Custodes, which is tended to by auto-cantillating Servo-skulls, tells of noble warriors who fell to these same daemon-possessed Traitors within the dark days of the Heresy. These are the earliest fragments of knowledge that concern the first Possessed Chaos Space Marines. But their heinous deeds soon became all-too familiar.
One of the first recorded incidents of the raw potential for violence of the Possessed occurred on Ptolemax XI. In 674.M31, a Night Lords warband veered out of the Eye of Terror to raid the city's treasury and reclaim the treasured Black Claw. Among the warband, eight Possessed in particular fought with a ferocity and rabid violence hitherto unseen in the sub-sector, let alone the planet. With the Possessed at the front of the attack, the Night Lords punctured the city’s defenses with raw daemonic fury. The Possessed smelled out the planet's governor, Ang Mantral. Ransacking his mansion, it was those eight warriors who slaughtered all of his bodyguards and administrative menials. With fevered delight, the Possessed seized the Black Claw and the Night Lords vanished into the Eye of Terror once more. Only bodies and nerve-shredded menials were left in their wake, and Ang Mantral’s skinless corpse stood in place of the Imperial banner.
Later, raids including bands of the Possessed became more frequent. By the middle of the 32nd Millennium, there was scarcely a star system that did not suffer the brunt of Warp-borne Chaos incursions that featured the Possessed.
The Daemon's Grip TightensEdit
As the Ruinous Powers seduced more Chaos Space Marines into offering themselves as hosts for Daemons, the Possessed became firmly established among the Chaos warbands and Legions. Their depraved and loathsome acts grew to become frequent sights across the galaxy. The Possessed soon stood at the very front of each Chaos assault. With their Daemon-enhanced senses, they navigated the violent tides of the Immaterium, guiding Chaos fleets out into the mortal realm to embark upon reigns of terror. At the deformed hands of the Possessed, the structures and settlements of the Imperium suffered greatly, and their foul deeds have become infamous.
During the events of the 5th Black Crusade, while the Imperial forces battled against Abaddon’s relentless assault, a Flawless Host warband led by squads of Possessed tormented the agri worlds of Galvan II and IV. Not only did they smash their way through Imperial defence emplacements – woefully undermanned as Abaddon’s forces kept reinforcements from reaching the beleaguered worlds – but they went on to massacre the populations of several cities in a horrifically violent fashion. They raided temples and sacred shrines, leaving with powerful artifacts requested of them by Abaddon. Not satisfied with their haul, before the Flawless Host exited the planet’s orbit, they destroyed its shipyards and major manufactorums, delivering a critical blow to the Imperium during a dark hour.
During 982.M41, in the shrine slums of St. Harrod, an enormous horde of the Crimson Slaughter Possessed spread great devastation. The Daemon Space Marines came from out of a dawn sky with no warning, great winged, rib-horned and betentacled monstrosities clad in crimson ceramite. The reshaped creatures proceeded to pillage the cities’ temples, committing acts of violence with lustful savagery. Members of the Ecclesiarchy were slaughtered in the cathedral-lined streets. Senior Ministorum Priests were impaled on sky-puncturing spires. Others simply fell to their knees and babbled litanies of faith; they were swiftly beheaded by monstrous claws, the expressions on their rolling heads forever agog at the horror before them. The horror of these events was accentuated by the tendrils of the Immaterium that leaked through in the wake of the Crimson Slaughter’s attack; manifesting around the corpses of the slain and causing their blood to drip upwards like a red rain in reverse.
It is worthy of note that the Possessed are involved in a disproportionately large number of atrocities involving the Ecclesiarchy. Some suggest that so powerful is the devotion of the Possessed to the Ruinous Powers, that their anger is focused on those most likely to speak against their foul gods.
As the Long War rages ever on, the forces of the Imperium must endure endless assaults from the Ruinous Powers. The Possessed have been involved in a number of incidents of note, many of which have been recorded in the archives of the Inquisition.
- A Ritual Interrupted (688.M37) - On the cemetery world of Ballios, a squad of Salamanders interrupts a traitor warband as they seek to debase a holy mausoleum by performing the Rite of the Reshaper amongst its ranks of grim tombs. Though they kill the Sorcerer before he slaughters one of their battle-brothers – the final sacrifice – a gaping hole to the Immaterium is opened. Numerous Daemons crawl into the mortal realm and tear into the Space Marines, enraged at being denied their prize. It takes the full fire and might of the 4th Company to rid the world of the misshapen horrors.
- The Purge (884.M40) - Possessed Chaos Space Marines guide a fleet of the Purge’s rusted plague ships through a squall of unnavigable Warp storms to seed the agri worlds of Bellru and Fealty II with vile diseases. Given their small numbers, the Purge spread an impressive amount of death and destruction. On each world, they send their ships plunging down into the oceans and onto land. The broken hulls empty out deadly spores into the atmosphere, infecting billions of inhabitants. The destruction of these important food-producing planets is a blow to the Imperium, and the populations of two star systems border on starvation.
- The Ire of the Iconoclasts (237.M41) - A warband of Iconoclast Chaos Space Marines spirals out of the Eye of Terror and raids Shrine Worlds in the Fallsreach system. With Possessed at their helm, they sniff out all members of the Ecclesiarchy, flaying them and burning their cathedrals. It becomes apparent that these fallen warriors, once of the Altar Brethren, are on a mission to purge all shrine worlds from the Imperium, and nearby planets are quickly reinforced by Imperial forces to avoid their spiritual violation.
- Screams of the Dying (999.M41) - Legionnaires from the Emperor’s Children spill out of the Immaterium and into the hive slums of Ichorax. All manner of outlandish, betentacled daemonic horrors take unnatural pleasure in hearing the mingled screams of billions of souls. Among the traitor warriors are thirty Possessed, who make easy work of the defenceless citizens before them. They slaughter their way through the various urban strata over a period of ten days, basking in the final wails of the fallen.
- A Possession Denied (999.M41) - The Crimson Slaughter Space Marine once known as Arral Tuk carves his name into history in a most foul manner. Seeking possession, on his quest for trophies he manages to kill Archon Vyle Ullth, two Imperial Fists Scouts, and a Harlequin Troupe Master. It is a mission of supreme dedication, but he is denied access to his gods at the very last moment when his ship is destroyed by the Dark Angels Strike Cruiser Salvation. It is said by scholars of the Inquisition that if Arral Tuk had become Possessed, he would have been one of the most powerful threats in the sector. However, Feddral Marnu, on a quest to avenge his former traitor brother, is carving an equally violent path. Moreover, he seeks a Dark Angels Space Marine from the Salvation to be used in his final ritual…
Vessels of ChaosEdit
Along with unnatural and debased augmentations, a Possessed gains heightened senses. As a consequence of its enhanced perception, it is able to track its prey across ashen wastelands or through toxic swamps. When one finally gets close to its prey, be that in the front line of battle or a stealthy assault deep behind enemy lines, the Possessed unleashes the full force of the Daemon within. Any weapons that the Chaos Space Marine once carried have long been discarded, for a Possessed has little need for conventional tools of destruction. A Possessed stands ready to rip its foes limb from limb with newly sprouted claws and barbed appendages.
The forms of the Possessed are boundless, but the mutations they undergo are not limited to their physical forms. Their former personalities are also subsumed, giving rise to increasingly inhuman behaviours. Whatever sentience the Chaos Space Marine displayed before possession by a Warp Entity – whoever strode into battle with his bolter roaring – is forever lost to the Immaterium, for his entire mind has been surrendered to a Daemon. Only a dark echo of their original essence remains.
Those Chaos Space Marines who were of a more devout nature end up slaughtering their foes whilst screaming the names of their gods. These Possessed are relentless hunters, roaming ahead of their traitor brethren. When they kill, such is their devotion to the Ruinous Powers that their victims are often arranged into ritually significant contortions, or have heretical runes carved into bloodied foreheads, the Possessed chanting debased litanies all the while. Chaos Space Marines who were sadistic killers in their previous existence are transformed into frenzied and uncontrollable slaughterers. They fight with wild abandon, gleefully carving wide bloody paths through advancing infantry, delighting in the carnage they bring.
After they have been bonded with a Daemon, the Possessed will still march to war clad in the same colours as the warband or Legion in which they previously fought. They can often be found fighting alongside others of their Possessed kin. It is thought that this is simply because such formations of Chaos Space Marines are more effective in battle, or perhaps they share some bestial pack mentality.
Enduring The Mortal RealmEdit
Daemons are only able to exist in the material realm for a short time, unless they are bound to a mortal host. While a Daemon might be able to terrorise a city or even a world while bound within a human host, a Chaos Space Marine provides a Daemon with the means to endure indefinitely outside of the Warp, inhabiting the body of a peerless killer with the means to cause immense damage across numerous Imperial worlds. Therefore a Chaos Space Marine is a highly-prized vessel for the horrors of the Warp. These warriors prove to be hardy hosts, and can endure mutation and torment that would easily tear apart the weak flesh of an unworthy cultist.
To harbour a Daemon within, a Chaos Space Marine must prove their unflinching loyalty to the Chaos Gods. Yet service alone is not enough to warrant possession. The destruction of flesh and souls are quotidian acts, and duly expected of any individual in the service of the Ruinous Powers. Therefore, the journey to possession by a Daemon requires a Chaos Space Marine to commit to a specific sequence of actions. It culminates in a debased act conducted by either a Sorcerer or Dark Apostle.
The Rite of the ReshaperEdit
It is suggested in the copy of the Heretica Daemonica held within the vaults of the Ordo Malleus that there exist several methods through which the Daemon may materialise within the body of a Space Marine. One of the few rituals known to be detailed in the forbidden volume, and certainly the most common method through which a Chaos Space Marine may become a Possessed, is the Rite of the Reshaper.
The ultimate stage of this blasphemous ritual is performed by either a Dark Apostle or a Sorcerer skilled in communing with the creatures of the Warp. However, before either can conclude the ritual, eight worthy and potent blood trophies are required to be taken by the Chaos Space Marine who seeks possession. These specimens may range from the intact corpse of a prized Eldar Seer to the head of an Adeptus Astartes warrior. It is said that the Chaos Gods whisper the names of sought-after victims into the head of the Chaos Space Marine – and that there exists some order of preference in the business of possession.
Accordingly, a Chaos Space Marine who seeks the blessings of a particular god may hunt out appropriate victims to please the deity. Consequently, those who seek possession by Daemons of Nurgle ravage plague planets for rancid trophies. Likewise, those who wish for a Daemon of Khorne seek out the vilest murderers in the galaxy. The Heretica Daemonica suggests that each possession is unique, with its own particular trail of blood.
A Chaos Space Marine who seeks a Daemon may travel for years to find the correct components for the ritual, scouring planets, boarding long-forgotten ships and uttering corrupt hymns as he disembowels those who protect his target. To celebrate his depraved progress, the Chaos Space Marine engages in orgiastic feasting at tables within ransacked gubernatorial castles, with only the bloodied corpses of its previous occupants for company. It is a path of excess and slaughter. Yet, ever craving a Daemon, the Chaos Space Marine remains focused on his next debased act. Fanatical and devoted to the cause, only he will know when he is ready to complete the ritual.
The final step of this path often takes place in the location of a former atrocity, though it does not need to have been one conducted by the traitor warriors themselves. The site is often an execution ground for rogue psykers or a former battlefield where the air is still thick with the wails of the dead. The harvested trophies, the most powerful of which will always remain alive until the last possible moment, are then laid out on the ground, forming eight points of a blasphemous sigil.
As a Sorcerer or Dark Apostle conducts the dark Rite of the Reshaper, uttering foul litanies in shifting cadences, the living trophy is killed by the whip of a Warp-blade across its throat. Standing amidst the thick gouts of blood, the Chaos Space Marine seeking possession will press the tip of the tainted blade into his own armour and flesh. His skin itches beneath his ceramite shell. His body throbs with pain. His mind aches under the scrutiny of a thousand roiling Warp-forms, each competing to conquer his flesh-form and alter it. As the ritual of reshaping concludes, the marks of the Daemon begin to manifest – tendrils, curved horns or wings, all dripping with gore. The Possessed rises, forever changed by the powers of the Warp.
It is not unknown for a Daemon to be banished from the mutated form of the Chaos Space Marine. The reasons for this are always unclear, but it is seldom long that such a prized vehicle for carnage stands empty.
When a Daemon is banished, other creatures from the Warp jostle to occupy the former Possessed. The strongest Daemon burrows into the Chaos Space Marine’s physical form and reshapes his flesh in hideous new ways. There is nothing that the Chaos Space Marine can do to influence this. All the while, his mind howls with the pain of the new possession. His skin shudders as a new Daemon’s grip closes once again on his form. But these are pains to be relished rather than just endured, for the Possessed knows his form is becoming faster and stronger, gaining sharper senses still.
On rare occasions, a Possessed Space Marine may be void of a Daemon for a sustained period of time. Whether this is because they have not caused enough mayhem to satisfy their patron gods, or for some other reason, remains a mystery. Once empty of a Daemon, though, a Possessed Space Marine becomes a husk of his former self, weaker in battle and craving to be a vector for the power of the Chaos gods once again. Some have been known to re-attempt their original rituals and continue to stray throughout the galaxy in search of ways to bring back their former powers.
Possessed Chaos ChampionsEdit
Perhaps the most potent forms of the Possessed are those rare few Champions of Chaos who seek to prove their ultimate devotion to Chaos by allowing their forms to be possessed by one of the entities of the Warp. These individuals enjoy a more symbiotic relationship with their possessing daemon and are the present-day equivalents of the ancient Gal Vorbak of the Word Bearers Legion, the first of the Space Marines to be possessed by daemonic entities.
Other Forms of PossessionEdit
While Space Marines are favoured as hosts by the entities of the Warp, due to their impressive resistance and robust constitution, they are not the only beings who can be possessed. Such is the nature of daemons that they can possess any living being with a soul; such a joining of beings is called a Daemonhost. In its long career, the Ordo Malleus has encountered Orks, Squats, Hruds and many other types of beings serving as Daemonhosts. The only exceptions to date are the Tau and the Tyranids. The Tau are believed to be protected from possession by their low psychic presence and rigid philosophical adherence to the Greater Good, while the Hive Mind of the Tyranids is powerful enough to keep any intruder out of its multitude of bodies. And of course, as the majority of the Necron lack souls, they are immune to possession as well.
- 5-20 Possessed
- Codex Heretic Astartes - Chaos Space Marines (8th Edition), pp. 65, 137
- Codex Heretic Astartes - Death Guard (8th Edition), pp. 47, 83
- Codex: Chaos Space Marines (6th Edition), pp. 39, 96
- Codex: Chaos Space Marines (4th Edition), pg. 29
- Codex: Chaos Space Marines (3rd Edition, 2nd Edition), pg. 26
- Codex: Chaos Space Marines (3rd Edition, 1st Edition), pg. 12
- Codex: Khorne Daemonkin (7th Edition), pp. 12, 15, 50-51, 79, 138, 174-175
- Warhammer 40,000: Index Chaotica - Possessed (6th Edition)
- The First Heretic (Novel) by Aaron Dembski-Bowden
- Word Bearers Novel Series:
- Dark Apostle (Novel) by Anthony Reynolds
- Dark Disciple (Novel) by Anthony Reynolds
- Dark Creed (Novel) by Anthony Reynolds
- Torment (Short Story) by Anthony Reynolds
- Black Legion Novel Series:
- The Talon of Horus (Novel) by Aaron Dembski-Bowden
- Abaddon - Chosen of Chaos (Short Story) by Aaron Dembski Bowden